After seven weeks, we are finally going to head back to the United States. Today, I nearly cried at our farewell party. All of the women that we became really close to gathered to spend time with us one more time. The directors of the center were also there, as well as Soh-San, one of the Hibakusha. The women pointed out good food for me to try at the restaurant. We laughed together as I spoke some Japanese words I knew for them and as we told stories together. We reminisced about good times we had. I felt like they were old friends. They each went around and told us how much they have enjoyed having us here at the center and how they will miss us when we are gone. Some of the women got really personal and it made my heart melt. They asked us what about our visit to Hiroshima impressed us or moved us the most. Honestly, it was all of the little moments with the people here. It was going to feed carp, eat ramen, and buy cake with a Hibakusha…it was going to the nursing home for the Hibakusha and watching them enthusiastically sing the famous songs about Hiroshima, while I struggled to read the characters…it was going to a baseball game with the Hibakusha, the directors, and members of our English class…it was laughing and talking casually with the women while we prepared food for the “Fun Time in English” presentation and they talked about actors they liked or how to say “I want oyster sauce”….it was persuading an English class composed of women that we knew very well to tell how they met their husbands and how their husbands proposed to them…it was when I laughed along with Yoko-San and Naomi-San as we were given another fruit USB drive consisting of slides of pictures drawn from Hibakusha…it was joking with the women as if we were all lifelong friends…it was all of the people with their amazing attitudes towards life and just simply laughing with them…
I also learned so much… I would recommend this experience to other students. I visited the museum yesterday with Lindsey. Some of the women were teasing us for not having visited it right away. I had to pinky-promise that I would go visit it before I left. However, because we saved it until the end I entered the museum knowing what I was looking for…or what I needed for my research…I went in with an understanding of opinions about the museum and of the information contained within.
We went to a baseball game on Sunday. The Hiroshima Carps were playing the Osaka Tigers. Not only was the game an enjoyable way to enjoy a Sunday afternoon, but we learned something about the history of Hiroshima as well. The Hiroshima Carps team was formed in 1949 to assist in the reconstruction of Hiroshima. There were several times that it struggled financially, but each time the people of Hiroshima refused to give up their team. The use of sports is seen around the world as a way to unite people after a tragedy and to help them to move forward. The enthusiasm and energy of the fans in the stadium was electric. While the teams didn’t seem to be of the same caliber as players from the United States, it was still an enjoyable cultural experience. Walking with the massive wave of people from the station to the stadium while people sold traditional Japanese food along the way, I couldn’t help but get excited for the game and for the fact that I was able to share this day with them. Also, it was such a great experience because how many people will get to go to a baseball game with two Hibakusha on an average Sunday afternoon?
Today, we joined members of the WFC’s Peace Choir and went to an elementary school to sing at a peace event. While my singing was definitely not the best, being able to stand by the stage with at least 90 elementary school kids, I again felt lucky that I had been given this internship and that I was standing where I was. Before we sang, the 1st through 6th grade classes got up individually and presented on what they had learned about the atomic bombing and peace. This presentation consisted of a child or two children yelling out loud a certain peace of information until almost all of the kids had done so. The younger classes had read books on the atomic bombing, such as Barefoot Gen or The Angry Jizo. They all reiterated the fact that there needs to be peace and in order to achieve peace everyone needs to be kind to each other and enjoy spending time with each other. Several of the classes stated a commitment to peace. When we stood up in front of the classes of Japanese children and their parents and each group that was going to be singing was announced, I heard the word Illinois. The chairperson of the WFC that was standing next to me turned to me and said they were introducing me. After we sang our songs, everyone, including the audience, joined in together for another song that I had heard before and started swaying from one side to the other. I couldn’t help but smile. I again thought…here I was participating in a peace event with all of these Japanese elementary school kids and their families and the WFC and that I am so lucky and fortunate to be here…I felt so excited I was able to share that moment singing with them.
Hiroshima has taught me about peace education, about culture and peace, and about peace in general. All I can say is: